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Book nerds, help me read 45 books in 2011!

2011 January 5

I don’t know around what time average kids start reading seriously. I suppose it’s sometime in your teenage years. Sure, you read before then — picture books and children’s books and short, unchallenging 50 page stories. I used to keep a little treasure chest of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books in my desk in the fourth grade. But then there comes that time when discovering a certain book graduates you from reading adolescence to reading maturity, so to speak.

Until I was fifteen-years old, I’d never read anything remotely interesting enough to inspire me to like books. One day after school, I walked to the library, motivated only by the profound boredom felt as a teen in an old, dead industrial town. Although foggy, I still remember the excitement of suddenly exploring a world of a thousand possibilities-and then the equal amount of disappointment upon discovering how old and uninteresting most of the books seemed.

Seriously, what interests your “normal” fifteen year old boy other than boobs, football and super heroes?

Then, I saw something.

Barely visible on the shelf, It was a tiny little shredded up paperback entitled Breakfast of Champions. I grabbed it because the title was vaguely a sports reference, and I’d heard the name of the author, “Kurt Vonnegut,” on the radio a few weeks earlier. As I remember it now, I didn’t even look to see what the book was about. I just walked up to the counter, pulled out my library card and trotted home.

Bonus points for knowing this drawing

The next week or so was probably the most illuminating week of my teenage life, just me and Kurt Vonnegut. Everything about the book was wonderful: the comic illustrations, the witty cynicism, the way Vonnegut employed his reader as his ally. It was like the book was custom designed to usher a kid out of adolescence and into young adulthood. Not only did it make me feel smarter, but I also felt better as a person for reading it.

I’ve read critics now who pan Kurt Vonnegut as insignificant in the realm of literary achievements because his writing catered to very simple ideologies. In other words, Breakfast of Champions is not Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, and perhapsnothing about Kurt Vonnegut’s writing will re-write the rule book on American literature. And even more: I’ve read lots and lots of books by other authors now that I would probably say are better books than Breakfast of Champions. But it will always be my favorite book.

In a recent poll of old friends and relatives through the magic of Facebook, I have discovered that I have read more books than any other person I have ever known or met, including all of my teachers. This is somewhat horrifying to me. In 2010, however, I did a pretty horrible job: I only read 13 books.

The Next 10 Books I will read, several of which were purchased for $2 each at Recycled Reads, Austin Public Library's used book store. If you are a reader, interested in developing a collection and on a limited budget, Recycled Reads is a great cause with a vast collection

This week, Republic of Austin is sort of doing a “New Year’s Resolution” set of posts by our authors. We’re all going to do our part to be better people, you know, for America. So after struggling with the idea of what exactly could be my firm resolution (because there are quite a few to choose from), I’ve decided I want to read more in 2011. And comrades, I need your help.

My New Year’s Resolution is this: Read 45 new books in 2011.

45 new books would not be the most books I’ve read in a year-but it would be pretty close. It’s definitely way more than I can reasonably handle, so I’ll be really pushing myself.

How can you help?

Here’s the thing: I don’t have 45 books that I’d like to read this year. And I need you lovely folks to suggest some of your favorite books in the comments here or on our Facebook page.

Thanks in advance.

Oh, and Happy New Year, people!

Reading is cool from dazychic on etsy.


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12 Responses leave one →
  1. January 5, 2011

    Hey Matthew,

    Thanks for giving a shout out to Recycled Reads. Please join us on Facebook:
    A few of my favorite books as of late are: Drop City, TC Boyle; The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova; Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

    You can also go to my business website to read the excerpts of a few authors I represent at
    The excerpts should be up in a few more weeks. It’s a new site.

    Read on, Matthew!

    • January 5, 2011


      Thanks for reading and linking to the post. I’ve gotten more good suggestions today than I could have hoped for as a result.

      Also, keep in contact with me in regards to your authors with your new site. I love reading local and new authors and will do what I can to help! ([email protected])

      Thanks again,

  2. Brooke permalink
    January 5, 2011

    I have some books to recommend as they were quite formative for me, and stayed with me long after set down. These are “old” books (to you, perhaps) that don’t seem to age. “The Glass Bead Game” (aka “Magister Ludi”) by Hermann Hesse and “The Magus” by John Fowles. “Catch 22″ by Joseph Heller. “The Invisible Man” by Ralph Elison. I would say these are 20th century classics. “The Foundation Trilogy” by Asimov is brainy, stellar sci-fi. John Irving’s “The World According to Garp” is a fabulous read (a story told much better than the movie). Anything written by Ursula Le Guin is candy for the inner ear, if you like socially conscious fantasy/sci fi. She writes good dramatic fiction, as well, with sentences that read like poetry.
    Happy reading.

    • January 5, 2011


      Thanks for all the suggestions. I read “Catch 22″ and “Invisible Man” when I was younger . I think “Catch 22″ is one I would definitely love to revisit sometime. I like science fiction — I’ve only read a few fantasy novels in my time. Thanks again for these, I will definitely check some of them out. :)

  3. Brooke permalink
    January 5, 2011

    More recent: “Vurt” by Jeff Noon. You might like that. It’s quite a ride.

  4. January 5, 2011

    Reading Sunset Park by Paul Auster currently. Really enjoyed Lunar Park by Brett Easton Ellis last year. Apparently I need some books without “Park” in the title.

    • January 5, 2011

      You’ve liked Sunset Park? Judging a book by its cover (and summary) as I occasionally do, it looked a little stiff for my tastes.

      Lunar Park, on the other hand, seems like a lot of fun.

      Thanks for these!

      - M

  5. Marie permalink
    January 5, 2011

    The drawing makes me laugh every time I see it
    :) love your post

  6. January 6, 2011

    Ooh ooh! Special Topics in Calamity Physics!!! Someone recommended it to me Matt after we had a discussion about books on Eavesdropper:

    Anyway, per their suggestions, I bought a copy — and nothing has gripped me like that in a while. Would you like mine?

    • January 6, 2011


      That would be wonderful! Maybe I could give you something good to read from my library, too? Sort of like a book exchange, except between unabashedly cool people.

      What do you think?

      - M

  7. Chaz permalink
    January 7, 2011

    Definitely agree with the Ursula Le Guin. The Left Hand of Darkness is a good one by her. The People of Paper, also good fiction. I am reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest right now, very dark.

    Good luck with your resolution. For America.

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